Re-cycle (1) at Williams Arts and Antiques, Gwydir Street, Cambridge

On Friday, I installed my sculpture, Re-cycle (1), in the gallery, Williams Arts and Antiques on Gwydir Street, just off Mill Road in Cambridge. It will be there for a month I think, so head on down if you’re in the area and take a look at it in person. Playing with it and it’s moving mechanisms really beats looking at photos! The opening evening was excellent fun, and the sculpture seemed well received by everyone. For anyone interested, the blurb for the piece runs like this:Re-cycle (1)————————————————————————————————————————The concept for Re-cycle (1) came out of discussions between Chris Williams (Williams Arts and Antiques) and I for a moving sculpture. I have worked with bikes in my sculpture for the past 3 years, re-using old bicycles and parts donated by Cambridge residents to create life-affirming, environmentally focussed and politically demonstrative artwork. So, when Chris proposed a chase scene in sculpture form, it seemed only logical that I should use some of the many bicycles and parts that I have amassed to create it. Similarly, it made sense that the sculpture should focus on the greatest bike race in the world, the Tour de France.Re-cycle (1) is comprised of 3 bikes, used electric guitar strings, old computer wires, an ethernet board, used sand-paper, planks from a broken fence, newspaper cuttings and the jack of a defunked headphone set. The sand-paper has been used in a two-fold capacity, as it was used to sand the planks and thereafter added for aesthetics. Every part of the sculpture is re-cycled. Each part would have been either thrown away or abandoned if it had not been donated to the project or commandeered by me for the same purpose. The sculpture shows global issues in a frank manner. However, the aim of the Re-cycle (1) and the images contained therein is to explore fundamental ideas of death and rebirth. I hope to raise questions about the nature of hope and the effect of perspective in gaining or maintaining it. Images within the sculpture are open to various interpretations: The green fields shown behind the valiant cyclists, while verdant and life affirming, are images of palm-oil plantations in Borneo, which are destroying the natural biodiversity and soil fertility of the area. Similarly, the image of wheat holds many meanings, both good and bad, ranging between ancient mythological, biblical and modern-day ecological. The issues addressed in Re-cycle (1) are serious, but their delivery is intended to be humourous, because it’s better to laugh than to cry. Kat Austen————————————————————————————————————————As most of the parts are donated, I would like to thank the following people for their contributions: Catherine McKnight, Ruth McKnight, and Jacob Phelps for the bikes; Jim Fowler for the guitar strings. A riveting tale about the making of Re-cycle (1)…The frame of Re-cycle (1) was built in Cambridge, whereupon I drove it to a small cottage in North Wales to finish it. The thing about staying in a small cottage in North Wales is that resources are distinctly limited. Imagine my horror, then, when I discovered I needed a rivet for the chain on Re-cycle (1), which is a full millimetre thicker than the 3 spare chains I brought with me, due to the rare hub gear mechanism on the bike. I took my broken chain to the one bike shop within 20 miles of the cottage, but they only deal with mountain bikes; there was no chance they would have a rivet the right size. I had no idea where I would find somewhere that would have one, moreover a used one, in time to finish the project. How terrible to be thwarted, after months of work, by one small, metal cylinder. I returned to my chilly garage and tried once more to hammer in a rivet of the wrong size. All I was doing was damaging the chain… Sitting back on my heels, my eye fell on the headphones that I had brought, along with all the old computer wire, to make the race competitors. I’ve learned through years of working with recycled materials that if it looks like it might work, it’s always worth a try. So I tried it. To my utter astonishment it fit the chain and it didn’t block the mechanism once cut to size. It saved both the day, and the whole project.


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